On Wednesday, American Oversight sued the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to compel the release of Trump administration communication records, including conversations that officials may have had with Fox News hosts, the Trump campaign, or other proponents of the “Big Lie” in the weeks surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol building.
The lawsuit also comes just days after congressional investigators revealed that while the mob of Trump supporters ransacked the U.S. Capitol, top Fox News personalities had texted former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows urging him to persuade President Trump to tell the rioters to go home. The text messages released on Dec. 12 by the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack include pleas from Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Brian Kilmeade, asking for Trump to intervene to stop the violence.
In November 2021, American Oversight submitted several Freedom of Information Act requests to the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security requesting communication records between former top officials and a range of individuals in the media, the Trump campaign, and right-wing politics associated with promoting Trump’s false claims of election fraud.
The records sought are the communications of former officials, including former Attorney General William Barr and then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, with Hannity and others at Fox News, with Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Cleta Mitchell, as well as with Phil Waldron, Mike Lindell, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Josh Hawley, and others. Both agencies failed to respond to the requests as required by law, prompting American Oversight to file Wednesday’s lawsuit
The messages released by the House select committee on Dec. 12 were reportedly provided by Meadows himself prior to his decision to break off cooperation with the investigation. On Tuesday night, the House voted to recommend criminal contempt charges against Meadows for stonewalling the investigation and refusing to further cooperate.
The lawsuit asks the court to order DHS and DOJ to release any non-exempt documents responsive to the records requests.
This is the seventh public records lawsuit filed by American Oversight seeking records related to the Jan. 6 attack. The previous lawsuits have sought the public release of a range of documents that could shed light on Trump’s actions during the attack, the delay in deploying National Guard forces, and the intelligence failures that left security services underprepared for the violence, among other issues.
Records we have already obtained include top DOJ officials’ call logs from Jan. 6, including a handwritten log that appears to document former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen’s calls, as well as Secret Service timelines of the violence at the Capitol. We have also forced the release of documents from the sham election reviews in Arizona and Wisconsin, revealing heavy involvement by partisan actors and conspiracy theorists in both inquiries.
“The Mark Meadows text messages make it frighteningly clear how much we still don’t know about Jan. 6 and the roles of key players both in and out of government,” said American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers. “Every day it becomes more apparent that this was a carefully planned coup attempt that went far beyond a mob of angry Trump supporters in the streets. If we’re going to prevent the next coup attempt from succeeding, the public needs to know exactly who was involved and what they did.”
You can read more about our investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol here.
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